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Ikastola means school in Basque. Covering the wall on the right as you walk in is a huge green chalkboard, inviting all to have a hand in the décor. Offering well-priced food and drinks in a cozy, unpretentious atmosphere, this laid-back bar evokes public school right down to the wooden furniture.

The venue is owned by three local Basques who met in London and who have known each other since they were knee-high. Guillermo, David and Laura hail from Amurrio, a town in the province of Álava in the Basque Country, roughly halfway between Vitoria and Bilbao.

“There weren’t really any bars serving sandwiches,” explains Guillermo. “So we wanted to open a place in Gràcia that would fill that niche.” Thus, the concept for Ikastola was born: a neighborhood bar specializing in bocadillos (sandwiches). “The public had an appetite and we delivered.” We agree.

At the helm are artists and students moonlighting as salad and sandwich artists. On any given night, Miriam might till the register and tend the bar while Laura makes the best bocatas in Gràcia. On another night, the duo might swap roles. When business ebbs, Laura and Miriam casually read while Arcade Fire plays in the background.

The venue has become a Gràcia favorite, equally popular with the stroller set as with the party crowd. Mamás y papás arrive promptly at 7:00 to park their Maclarens and enjoy a drink before tucking their precious creatures into bed, while marchosos (partiers) congregate here in the later hours to refuel (and keep drinking) before marching on to their next bar.

Befitting an institution that prides itself on its sandwiches, bocadillos/bocatas are made to order with delicious, all-natural bread from long-running bakery Forn Boix in El Raval; sizes are generous and prices are reasonable, at €5 for a whole sandwich or €3.50 for a half. We particularly recommend #5, with jamón and melted Brie and #11, with pesto, jamón and Parmesan. Ikastola also offers fresh salads and a few items para picar (to nibble), such as the #3 salad with sliced tomato, feta, olive tapenade and fresh basil.

The lovely terrace in back, which recently doubled in size, is a perfect spot to while away a summer evening with friends while sharing a €10 bottle of Rioja. Open till 10:30 p.m., Ikastola’s patio is so idyllic it conjures up “recess” more than any “school” we’ve ever attended.

Editor’s note: This review was originally published on July 24, 2012.

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Hollis DuncanHollis Duncan

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